He was born just a few blocks from where I grew up: Jimmy Cagney, the American film legend playing George M. Cohan, the man who owned Broadway. Cohan wrote the American anthems "Yankee Doodle Boy," "Over There" and "You're a Grand Old Flag." And as we celebrate the 234th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, I'm like a lot of you: I'm proud to be a Yankee Doodle Dandy through and through.
You see, our flag represents the deepest pride of our nation, not our deepest prejudice. Our flag displays our history, not our hysteria. It flies to announce our very best aspirations born of the toil of our very worst days. It flies amidst man-made canyons on this Avenue of Americas in New York City and in canyons carved by time from colored stone in Arizona. And as it whips in the wind, it whispers to us that the American Revolution was only a beginning and not an end. And whether it flies in a lonely military outpost in Afghanistan or from the highest point of the Capitol, it announces the blessings of freedom. Not because we blindly claim freedom, but because we fearlessly practice it.
So this July 4th, let's celebrate our independence in uniquely American ways: At parades where our brave volunteer firefighters hurl fistfuls of candy to our delighted children; as Mummers and returning veterans and Shriners and church ladies and all kinds of neighbors.
First and tenth generation Americans alike march as one people with one shared understanding: We the people who understand that the blessings we enjoy are earned through the burdens we necessarily endure. The same people who live the words of Thomas Paine, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
There are some who say "it's easy to wave a flag." Well, it's even easier to make fun of those who do. There are some who will tell you that our flag only serves to divide. The truth is it serves to remind us as the most diverse and inclusive civilization in the history of mankind of what really unites us: To believe, to think, to speak, to act — freely, fearlessly.
If you're at the fireworks this weekend and you see a man quietly move away from the crowd to escape the thunder, there's a good chance he's seen the real bombs bursting in air. Go stand by him because he likely stood watching over us as we safely slept in the hometowns he has kept free.
We are lucky. It is a grand old flag on a happy weekend in America.
-- Peter J. Johnson, Jr., has served as a legal analyst for the Fox News Channel since 1997